Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Double agent Mommya

"Mommya" is my new name, according to the B. I love it -- blending "mommy" with "mama" for the double whammy delight. We've been having the blast of the century lately here in rain-dead Seattle -- walking around the mall swinging our purses (I got her a three-buck blue vinyl version of this here), making foam-bead necklaces at Library Story Hour, cooking green beans on her stove and mine. But before I transform into a Hallmark card before your very eyes, let me share some treasonous thoughts.

One recent afternoon, as I was enjoying some of this domestic bliss, it occurred to me that this mommy job really isn't as hard as a full-on, ambitious professional life. I should stop right here and declare that creating such hierarchies are pointless, offensive, and patently anti-feminist. I do believe that women like this one deserve the state and social support all workers, all people, do. But let's face it -- the feminist strategy of assessing "women's work" on a scale with "real" jobs hasn't worked too well in economic terms -- affordable day care and health care for children are still nonexistent and flex time, while available to some professional women (though not the ladies of Wal Mart), tends to turn into a fiction in light of how worloads really shake down. No, I fear that what's resulted from the inculcation of the slogan "Every Mother is a Working Mother" is simply a bigger ego boost for those mamas privileged enough to have the time and headspace to ponder such things.

I am getting sick of showoff moms. I am one myself, sometimes, I know. It's hard to resist -- you have this Instant Cuteness Generator toddling around with you, how not to use it? But really, it's not an accomplishment to have a cute little child. (Even if you made him or her -- that's just genetic luck, though I thank Mallory for ours.) Parenting is a vocation, in the Latin sense -- a spiritual calling, serious as it gets -- but it is not a profession. The minute I as a parent start assessing myself the way a lawyer or a salesman would, as "better" because our child accomplishes more or is convincingly adorable/smart/sweet in public, I am dangerously deluded. Because I am not "creating" Bebe the way I create a piece for Blender. I am her advocate, her bodyguard, the attendant on her airplane. But she is not a job I do well.

I'm sick of all the rhetoric about the awesome creative genius of mothers. I'm not saying women don't do amazing things with and for their kids, and of course there is the miracle of childbirth, which I'll never deny even though I'll never experience it. But the self-congratulation has gone too far. (Let's not even get into what happens to dads when mothers hog the spotlight -- we bitches in the house have no right to complain if we're not willing to share.) Whatever happened to putting our kids first? In real life, the moms I know and love so that. At he same time, because most of us have worked to be successful, cutting-edge, hip, it's hard to not try to be that as mamas too. But what I'm realizing, I guess, is that as a mama I don't need to be all that. I just need to be loving and fundamentally there. (Even when B's at daycare and being "there" means winning bread and co-supporting our family.)

This tirade came about because of something that happened at the gym the other day. I walk into the locker room after my workout and there's a new mama breastfeeding her baby in the corner. Fine, I'm pro-breastfeeding, but this woman was WORKING it. Cooing to the sprout in precious babykins lingo so everyone, even in the shower, could hear. She was showing off, waiting for all of us to turn and say, how adorable!! To make HER feel adorable, not her daughter. And this in a zone where I go to be quiet and alone -- a zone where kids are officially not allowed.

I'm politically incorrect and perilously anti-hipmama to say that woman should have found a quieter corner and interacted with her child in solitude. But she should have. It wouldn't have been solitude after all; her daughter was there to appreciate her. Why did she feel, why do so many of us often feel, that we need to whole world to coo at us too?

(and if you still want to buy the t-shirt pictured at top after that rant, go to


Anonymous sandi said...

This is, I think, related to the "child as accessory" phenomenon that you see every so often. As my son gets older, and it's reinforced to me how erratic my influence over him is, I understand a bit more clearly that he is an individual -- my son, but not my property.

9:57 AM


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